Ngiyabenza Khakulu…It is what I do

TB Patient files. I have handled enough case files over the past 3 months that I could be a social worker (I am sure the Social Worker/MSW Couple have a perfect comeback for that one).

TB Patient files. I have handled enough case files over the past 3 months that I could be a social worker (I am sure the Social Worker/MSW Couple have a perfect comeback for that one).

One of my friends recently reminded me that it has been 6 months since I left for South Africa, and now 3 months as PCV. There are days when it feels like winter is flying by (probably because there is NO precipitation…1 afternoon sprinkle of rain does not make a dent in this drought) and other days I am waiting for 4 PM or the end of July to come so I can actually do projects.

I may have mentioned this earlier but during the initial integration period, PCVs are not allowed to do projects. The main goal is to complete the CNA (check) and learn the language (er…). The get out of jail free card all clear is In-service Training (IST) which is happening later on this month. In all honesty, I agree that PCVs should have an integration period when we are forced to interact with our communities…it is just mine was abnormal and thus long. I am anxious for the next stage (as are many people in SA-31).

So now that the CNA is done, what do I do as a PCV?

In a sentence: I work a lot. Ngiyabenza khakulu!

Just as everyone’s housing differs, CHOP organizations differ as well. In my case, my org is really active. My supervisor is an amaZulu auxiliary social worker but the director is an American missionary. I joke with the other SA-31 PCVs that I really am in a professional American work environment minus the dress code (I wear jeans most days in the winter.) Part of that feel is I treat PC service like a job and the other half is the standards that are set.

Honestly, my work day depends on what there is funding for and the happenings of both PCSA and the org. Take this week for an example, where PCSA had to change the location of IST with a week’s notice. Life happens even in PC country offices but we adapt. In this case they had to move the venue 160 km from the intended location, and for some odd reason it is harder to get to that side of KZN (yes there are places in South Africa, a country with a good highway system, that are a process to get to…like my valley for example). A portion of my work time was spent trying to readjust travel plans and supporting other PCVs as we navigate the change (my supervisor and I are giving a lift to another PCV/Supervisor). This plus coordinating a last-minute presentation for me and the supervisor to share the CNA findings at IST has provided excitement in my life! Shosholoza!

In addition to PCSA I also had org work to do. Most of the time I was on the computer (and able to quickly post on the blog) although I did have an awesome meeting in the field about a potential project but I’ll share that another day. There were 3 projects I helped with since the CNA finished and 2 were especially neat.

One of the tasks was the quarterly tuberculosis (TB) report for one of our funding organizations. A bit of background (anticipate frequent references to TB in the next 21 months), TB is a caused by a bacteria that essentially drills holes in body parts but usually the lungs (Pulmonary TB). The medications to treat TB (which have nasty side effects) are administered into two stages: initiation which is about 3 months (when patients are highly infectious) and continuation phase which is about 4-7 months. Medications have to be taken continuously during this time period and if someone defaults then patients could be dealing with Multidrug reliant TB (MDR-TB) which is present in our service area.

On the quarterly TB report, the funders ask about what treatment stage each patient is at. Since the online data base currently does not have a way to track this information so my director asked me to try and create a TB register for the next quarterly report and start on the March-June report. This involved me going into the orange sticker files (how we code for TB) and tracing treatment. Great job for a public health geek! After sorting through the quarterly TB patients, we have at least a start on the register. Still no way to code people who we suspect defaulted (stopped taking their medications), but we will figure it out.

The other big project is hiring a social worker. The org just received funding for a social worker and at the same time the wonderful nurse left for job closer to home. The director has been posting all over job sites with our general info e-mail. Over the past generations, it has become the responsibility of the PCV to manage the info account but until yesterday I could not access the e-mail. My welcome gift was 100 applications for the social worker position…from all over the country. Eish. My next task is to short list everyone to the org’s qualifications for interviews.

Call me a sadistic being, but I really enjoy participating in hiring processes. I learn a lot from reading CVs and seeing diversity of experiences. However I see all the fresh-out-of college social work candidates and want to cry. Like the United States, South Africa has a shortage of social workers but not enough job opportunities. These candidates are really qualified…. as in I self-consciously quickly edit resume/CV/LinkedIn profile after seeing some of the experiences.

The first week of orientation we talked about the 6 roles of the PCV in development: learner, change agent, co-trainer, co-facilitator, project co-planer, and mentor. With the exception of learner, I have yet to fit these roles. However after 3 months at site I fill the role of data enter, secretary, computer guru(because I am American therefore I am the default computer expert in office…more like I get lucky), human resource support, locksmith (because South African doors dislike opening for me), support to other PCVs, and blogger. That is my life as a PCV so far. I am curious to see what other roles fit in the next year or so.

Cheers on 6 months, and here is to another 21 of being schooled by South Africa (in a good way)!

All the best,